By Jeff Gallatin
A group of North Olmsted athletic boosters and area businesses have planted a seed they hope will grow into new field turf and other stadium improvements for the district’s athletic programs.
Bill Escher, president of the North Olmsted Eagle Boosters, outlined at the Jan. 18 school board meeting a proposal to raise anywhere from $850,000 to $1.5 million for the improvements. The amount needed will depend on what work is done, with initial estimates having $850,000 covering the field turf and some improvements around it; $1.2 million would cover turf, extensive work or redoing the stadium track; and $1.5 million, adds new stadium lights to the work. The boosters have already set aside $150,000 as seed money for the project.
After the meeting, Escher said he’s already gotten a strong reaction to the project.
“It’s been very positive so far,” he said. “The athletes are very excited about being able to play on the turf and see other improvements. We’re also getting a good reaction from businesses. We already have one donation contingent upon the project getting approval from the school board.”
During the meeting, Escher said getting new turf would allow the district to host all its athletic events without worrying about possibly having to move them because of poor field conditions caused by rain, snow or other elements. In addition, the district could host other athletic and community events on the field on a regular basis, he said.
“It would help bring the community together by having the ability to have all the different events as well as having some financial benefits by having the type of facilities where we could host different events,” he said.
He said if given approval, the group would like to try to raise the funds within a year, and get the improvements within two.
“The amount of work would depend on what is approved and what is raised,” he said. “We’re waiting for a report on what heavy equipment might do to the track if it goes over it to do the turf. Plus, we need to see what else would be done.”
He said working with the district, other community groups and other schools would help move it forward.
“From what we’ve seen of other projects like this, it’s got to be a group effort,” he said.
A booklet describing the project is being put together and will be distributed in the area, he said.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Ed Vittardi, superintendent of the North Royalton schools, said his district was able to do a similar project at its stadium through a combine effort of a stadium foundation formed from boosters and other community members, the district and businesses.
“You’ve got to work together and get everybody on board with it,” he said. ‘That’s the way to get it done.”
He said utilizing naming rights to the stadium and other forms of recognition also helped involve different parts of the community while also recognizing people’s contributions. Having ongoing fundraising work as well as events can provide seed money for operations, repair and eventual replacement of the new facilities.
“It’s an ongoing process,” Vittardi said.
After the meeting, school board members said they would like to hear more.
“It sounds interesting,” board Vice President Joanne DiCarlo said. “We’re going to need more information about what they’re proposing to do.”
Although he was not at the meeting, North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy said he was interested when informed about the proposal.
“It’s exciting to hear about a project like this that could really be an asset to the community and provide a lot of benefits,” he said. “I’m looking forward to hearing more about this and talking with them about it.”